India Pushes for Elected Political Structure Instead of Interim Government Before Troop Withdrawal in Afghanistan

India has conveyed to the US that the latter should not withdraw its troops from Afghanistan unless it puts in an elected “political structure” to govern the country in place, official sources said Saturday.

Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale met US Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad recently and apprised India’s views about drawdown of US troops from Afghanistan, they said.

In the meeting with Khalilzad, Gokhale conveyed that India’s preference is for having an elected government in Kabul and not an interim arrangement when the US withdraws its forces from the war-ravaged country, the sources said.

Khalilzad informed Gokhale about the issues under discussions with the Taliban and that Washington was insisting on an assurance that territory of Afghanistan should not be used for any terror activities.

The foreign secretary told the US envoy that it should include terrorist groups that acted against India to which Khalilzad gave an affirmative response.

Major powers such as the US, Russia and Iran have been reaching out to the Taliban as part of efforts to push the stalled Afghan peace process.

India has been a key stakeholder in the peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan. In a significant move, India had sent two former diplomats in “non official” capacity to a conference on the Afghan peace process in Moscow in November last year which was attended by a high-level Taliban delegation.

India has been maintaining a policy of not engaging with the Taliban and pressing for an Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace initiative to bring peace and stability in the war-ravaged country.

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